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BWW Review: THE THIRD DAY, SUMMER, Sky Atlantic

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Stellar cast, including Jude Law, fails to animate potboiler plot

BWW Review: THE THIRD DAY, SUMMER, Sky Atlantic

BWW Review: THE THIRD DAY, SUMMER, Sky AtlanticThe best thing you can say about Summer, the first part of this three-part miniseries from Sky Studios, is that it simply must get better. Because if this is the best of The Third Day, I think I'll roll the stone back and stay inside the tomb. (If you didn't catch that allusion, in this show you would be shown a picture of Christ in front of a cave entrance while someone says "It's just like Iesus (sic) and the resurrection", while a wonky camera pans over to a cross in a ruined church).

Great slabs of exposition - often delivered by an inexplicably sweary Emily Watson or a maniacally grinning Paddy Considine - lends a Scooby Doo-like feel to a show that suggests The Wicker Man without the wit, Midsommar without the menace, The Prisoner without the style. Having been dealt a dud script by Dennis Kelly, Marc Munden's self-consciously flashy directing merely reminds you of how good Nic Roeg was with Don't Look Now.

There's Sam, a grieving father (Jude Law - who, were he even to think about raising an eyebrow, would sink the show quicker than the tide sinks the access causeway), a mysterious island with its oh-so-obvious death cult, a teen to be saved, a boy flitting in and out of shot (who just might Sam's son, not dead after all), and no phone reception, no boats and no computers. There's £40,000 in cash that pops up now and again, Katherine Waterston as a sexy but superfluous American academic (the series is co-produced by Plan B, Brad Pitt's company), and lots of crickets that symbolise life..."but also death". And a Pagan festival.

Poor Sam gets tortured but continually escapes from his foes with a resourcefulness and ease that makes you wonder why he can't make a better fist of getting off the island. He possesses a phone with a battery life Apple would die for and believes that swimming a mile fully clothed is a good idea - though he does avoid the undercurrents with no little skill.

It's utter nonsense - this genre often is - so why the deadly seriousness of tone? How can you spend all that money on the beautifully appointed island pub, and end up with it looking like a film location full of actors, while the one in An American Werewolf in London looks exactly like a pub full of dodgy locals? Why cultivate this strange island world that keeps knocking you off-centre, but then, just as you're buying in, pitch you into dream sequences and LSD trips that crash the atmosphere so carefully constructed? Critically for a show of this kind, all is pretty much exactly as it seems.

Punchdrunk get the next part, Autumn, as a single-episode, real-time "major immersive theatre event". They've got some work to do to rescue this potboiler.

The Third Day continues with Autumn on Sky Arts and online in October. Summer is available for streaming now

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From This Author Gary Naylor